There Are No New Ideas

A few years ago, I was working as a journalist for a sports marketing publication. I interviewed marketing directors, public relations, and advertising people from every professional and collegiate sports league.  (It was an awesome job. I feel cooler for having had the chance to work there).

One day I was talking to an old school GM from a small minor league baseball team.  When I asked him if they were working on any new marketing plans for their upcoming season he said, “Why?  There are no new ideas.  It’s the same stuff, packaged differently.”

I remember being shocked and a little bit offended. I mean, hello, my job was to find the best new marketing ideas and break them down for every other team to use.  If there were no new ideas, what in the world was I doing?

Sometimes this conversation pops back into my head at random times. And not so random ones — like when I open Publishers Weekly and look through the deals section.  I read the mini-synopses and think to myself, “Haven’t we read this story like fifty-eight thousand times?”

And the answer is a resounding, “YES!” 

I’m sure you’ve all heard the theory that there are only seven basic plot lines in all literature.  (And after reading the article I linked to, you’ll probably agree).  But even if the plot is the same, the packaging might be different.  And by packaging, I mean the character development, writing style, and other twists an author might put on an old story. 

I hear and see editors claim they’re looking for new ideas, which isn’t completely true.  Editors don’t want new stories.  They want the same stories told better. 

New ideas are great, but it’s excellent story craft that sells manuscripts. 

And with that, I’m off to work on my art.  I’ve got plenty of ideas that need to be turned into meticulously crafted tales. 

*One caveat:  This man said he had email and it was probably in his computer somewhere.  He wasn’t the most forward thinking chap. 


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